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West River woman puts bees on 'green' roofs

Font Size:big - mid - smallehangzhouhengke   Release time 10-11-30 16:50     view:1601   coomment:0   source:

One Baltimore high rise now offers a home to some pretty uncommon residents of city life: honey bees.

On Nov. 9, Baltimore's first honey bee haven was installed atop the historic Ice Storage House on W. 23rd St. The rooftop garden is meant to help reduce the building's energy consumption, store contaminated storm-water runoff, reduce air-borne pollutants.

The project has been a joint effort between Green Roof Service LLC, Architecture and Design Inc. and Resource Conservation Technology, a major supplier of green roof technology.

Diane Odell of West River, founder of Architecture and Design Inc. and licensed construction contractor and landscaper since 1982, is both a lover of bees and green building technology.

Odell, an organic gardener, originally proposed the roof be used as a bee habitat while discussing plans for the garden with Conservation Technology president Lee Jaslow.

"Being a beekeeper myself, and knowing the bleak situation honey bees were facing, I naturally proposed a honey bee habitat," Odell said.

Odell said the soil used on the rooftop garden is designed to meet requirements for drainage, compact and weight. The roof is layered with a root barrier, water-retaining drainage board, filter cloth and growing media all over a heavy roofing membrane.

When selecting which plants to put in the garden, Odell said she chose ones that were adaptable to the harsher roof environment of constant sun and drying winds as well as plants that were attractive to bees. Other than a hive box, the bees themselves needed very little equipment.

Odell enjoys working with green technology because it can improve the eco-system.

"Sometimes it's a simple understanding what green alternatives are available and making different choices," said Odell, who became a certified Green Roof Professional in 2009. "If we are going to build buildings and plant gardens anyway, why not use responsible, ecologically friendly designs? As an architect, I try to inform my clients about these alternatives."

Lee Jaslow and his company, Conservation Technology, provided the building site and technological components for the garden. There are four main benefits to installing a green roof: reduction of storm water run-off, elimination of heat gain, more greenery for wildlife and a cool rooftop to reduce the urban heat island effect.

"Most green roofs are done commercially and for new buildings because most old buildings can't take the weight," said Jaslow, who lives beneath one of the oldest residential green roofs in this part of the U.S.

Demand for these green roofs is apparently growing.

Jorge Breuning, of Green Roof Services LLC in Bel Air, said he sees the U.S. industry growing more than 20 percent a year.

"Modern Green Roof Technology made the Americans aware of some empty, hardly used space on top of the roofs," said Breuning. "Simple and highly efficient green roof technology with extensive green roofs will be the future - may be in combination solar - and this is the only real and environmental supportive and friendly technology at affordable costs."

The American green roof market reportedly employs at least 5,000 full-time and more than 15,000 part-time workers. If the industry continues to grow, the U.S. will have more than 200,000 full-time employees in the next decade.

At Baltimore's honey bee haven, the rooftop garden is exceeding expectations. Unfortunately, Odell said, the building is being restored, so the roof is not accessible to the public.

But soon, she hopes.

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